Top 5 coaches of the decade
Who had great teams? In what numbers? Across how much of the decade? These are pretty obvious questions to ask when trying to come up with a list. Another big thing I considered was how many coaches could duplicate their successes with similar budgets and debaters.
One thing that I found very challenging was I thought of a lot of great coaching staffs and it felt weird to single anyone of them out. When I thought of great teams, I often found multiple good coaches associated with them. So not being as familiar with the inner workings of teams there was a lot of credit splitting at a glance. I feel strongly about three of these and not so sure about the other two. So here goes nothing:
5. Jonah Feldman—Berkeley
I think he started there on immigration. I don’t have precise stats for you. I believe Cal had a first round team every year except on the energy topic.
4. David Heidt---Michigan
I believe he also started there on immigration and coached there through legalization. 7 first rounds, 2x NDT finalists, 1x NDT semifinalists, 1x NDT quarterfinalists. Arg coach extraordinaire.
3. Adrienne Brovero---UMW
Nukes to war powers one of the most impressive runs for a small school in history. I feel safe saying that if you put another coach in charge at Mary Washington, they do not do what Adrienne did, not even close. She is the ultimate professional. She is the only reason the gears of debate keep turning so we all know when and where to show up for stuff. She has taught me the most about being a debate coach and that is when I only take to heart half the stuff she says because I am so dense.
2. Jonathan Paul---Georgetown
Gtown AM=best team ever. Georgetown was a barely functioning program when he took over on nukes (I am pretty sure it was nukes). They were the 2nd best program of the entire decade after that. A true mastermind.
1. Jeff Buntin---Northwestern
If one were to make a list of the top 25 debaters of the decade, I think 7 NU debaters would easily show up: Fisher, Spies, Ryan, Layne, Peyton, Miles and Arjun. He showed up at Northwestern on the ag topic. They have had a team debate on Monday every single year since then.
Literally the entire community reads the shit he cuts. He comes up with some of the best args in the game, not close.
Top 5 judges of the decade
This one is pretty tough. I am going to inject some personal tastes which probably make my answers a bit different than the mainstream. I thought of what one would typically think about, but also two other things. First, I want a judge who is thoughtful but efficient. I can’t have someone who invariably goes to decision time. Sorry Crunk. Second, if I had a debater who was about to have their last debate who would I trust to do it right?
The list in no particular order:
All the topics ranked in order
Qualities of a good topic: Neg gets a DA that is not politics. There is an interesting reform vs. revolution debate to be had. Affs can survive CP’s. The lit base refreshes itself as the year goes on. Aff’s have some ability to generate new Aff’s but the Neg can apply a theme of argument to generate ground (they just might have to do it in a more specific way than the stock iteration of the argument).
10. Democracy---so bad. Democracy assistance generated no real DA’s. Affs happened during the year, but all the Affs were terrible. Six countries with not very much in common at all (besides US democracy assistance did not matter for their fates at all). The orientalism K was a slayer. Just yuck.
9. Immigration---I didn’t think it was too bad at the time. I was still pretty bad at debate back then so I dunno. I think the fundamentals of the topic were pretty weak, but it didn’t matter because midterms and the agenda DA were good so no one cared?
8. Legalization---I kind of have a soft spot for this topic. Reading about PAS, prostitution and organs was just a really unique experience. I think the marijuana debates were reasonable. I still to this day know nothing about online gambling. But objectively these areas were disjointed as hell and legalization didn’t really produce a topic DA that helped insulate the Neg against new affs. Also, we said United States in the resolution but that ending up meaning USFG? So fuck that.
7. Executive Power---Yikes. What a tornado. You know how some things are better than the sum of their parts? This is not one of those fucking things. This was 14 stupid things stapled together then put in a bag with some dog poop then left by your door. But hey, at least there was the Zivotofsky DA.
6. Energy---ah, my first year out. I was always playing catch-up on this topic figuring out how things worked. The debates were reasonable, but not memorable. It doesn’t feel like this was the best energy topic, but they have a pretty high floor. MEH.
5. War Powers---I held this topic in pretty high esteem at the time, but I have softened on that. I still think it was an actively good topic.
4. Healthcare---this topic was good. Everybody who didn’t like it is dumb. Moving on.
3. Climate---I thought this topic was really good. You could write new affs but the Neg had a few different angles and could prepare for them. Didn’t have to go for politics. K debates were really interesting. Good wholesome fun for everyone
2. Nukes---really cool topic. Just some epic throwdowns across a wide swath of areas. So many things you could talk yourself into reading 50 cards about in a debate.
1. Military Presence---Okinawa! Marines! Rotational presence! The things that made the topic great! Never really got tired of this topic. I really enjoyed what UK did on this topic and was a personal favorite to coach.
NDT hosts ranked
So I reject the premise of this question. Best NDT host of the decade maybe should be an accolade. But not all ten ranked. NDT hosting is thankless. I can only imagine the heightened stress and complexity of it being the most important tournament. I really enjoyed Minnesota and Kansas and Berkeley. I wasn’t wild about Binghamton in March but that has nothing to do with hosting skills.
Best regular season tournament
Gonzaga has a restaurant right next to their tournament hotel called Blackbird that is incredible, so they win.
There are a lot of ways to approach a question like this. I don’t think there is a clear correct method. This is a more challenging question than the best partnership one because the field of potential answers is much larger (people do work across multiple partnerships).
I can imagine some people gravitating toward figuring out the best team list and then parsing between those twenty folks. But I think a list like that, one overly focused on stats, misses the opportunity to have a list that reflects the game changers that have come through the activity in the last ten years. A lot of unique history has been made in the last decade.
Another fun way to think about it is if you were drafting a debate team who would go in the first round? Who’s really good in the round? Who would make a great teammate? Who would be a workhorse for the squad?
Another thing I thought about was how many other folks could pull off what that person did in their given circumstances. This was a key factor separating some honorable mention folks from the top ten list.
A list like this always going to be implicated by vantage point. While this is usually a downside, I think it can be an upside too. I am more familiar with certain folks than others throughout the decade. It is good and fun to share stories about people you don’t know and are sleeping on how great they are. Lists like this aren’t a means of disrespect, but a vehicle to share one’s perspective and hear others in return. I will eat up any response to this post that helps paint a better picture of someone’s time in debate.
Combo Category---Best Small School Debaters + Debaters Who Created a New Peak for Their Program
Combo category because a lot of the best small school debaters created new peaks of success for their program. Not really trying to setoff a T-small school debate. I know some teams are secretly small at heart, but whatever. I DON’T want to hear it.
Harry Aaronson/Cameron Dehmlow Dunne—Indiana AD: I love that Indiana came into existence this decade and reached incredible success with these two! Harry=NDT 3rd speaker. NDT doubles.
Dan Bagwell/Logan Gramzinski---Samford BG: Octa’s of the NDT on immigration. My overwhelming memory of Samford from this time was they would pick annoying Affs. I don’t actually remember what they were on about on immigration, only remember De-Alert (a coward’s Aff) and Yemen (for which nothing that was done could be considered democracy assistance, that was only Dan though, Logan graduated). Was alerted that Samford teams cleared at the NDT long ago, but they were the first team in 25 years to do so. Good enough for me.
Andrew Baker/Brian Rubaie---UTD BR: NDT Quarters. So good! Counterforce Aff! Watching them beat Kansas KQ’s Foucault Aff on Irigaray. 2010 debate at its finest!
Brian Box/Matt Munday---Wichita State BM: De-Dev! Heg bad! Neg vs new Aff from Georgia LL (Lacy/Layton, 10th bid). Georgia’s reading some shit about Tunisia? Libya? Who fucking knows. It has a zillion impacts. Around impact 12 or 13…economic decline! The rest is history and Wichita BM was an NDT quarterfinalist.
Taylor Brough/Khalil Lee---Vermont BL: CEDA champions. NDT Doubles. First round bid (first in Vermont history? Not sure). I remember them for beating people on disclose your prefs.
Kevin Kallmyer/Peter Susko---UMW KS: NDT semifinalists: Ask Ryan Galloway about this semi’s debate if you have 3 hours to spare. Kevin Kallmyer…best small school debater of all time?? I think he is in the top 20 debaters of the decade at least.
One of the things that makes debate unique and fun to me are the districts and the circuits. You show up in a district. You go to a regional tournament. You hear about the folks who did well at those tournaments previously. You look around and see those people doing well nationally from your district. Sometimes you hit each other, and they destroy you (Kentucky prelims on nukes).
You want to graduate from those regional tournaments to do well nationally and become an end boss in your district. Great debater graduates and starts judging you. They are endlessly helpful and super nice despite being EONS better than you.
Kevin was that kind of person when I debated and D7 helped cultivate that deep love of debate. What a fucking king and it’s what makes debate great.
Mary Marcum/Hunter McFarland—Wyoming MM: Scrappy AF. Love the mountain west. Wish I judged them more.
Colin McElhinny/Tom Pacheco + Patrick McCleary---UMW MP and UMW MM: 5th bid on energy! 6th bid on war powers + NDT Octas! Mary Washington best small school of the decade?? Yes. Thank gawd I debated all these people when I was a senior and they were sophs before they figured shit out and got way better than me. Thanks, dumb luck! Some of the most prolific card cutters the game has seen.
Cody Crunkilton/Miranda Ehlrich---Minnesota CE: NDT semifinalists on legalization. They made you earn it. Infamous for the impact turn. I have told this story on the internet before I think but I am doing it again!
My first interaction with Cody and Miranda was at the coast my senior year. I had no idea who they were. Until that point Minnesota teams in my career kept going for queer theory and psychoanalysis K's. I walk in and I see Miranda with. . .pink hair? I see Cody with some goofy shirt on, so I thought things were gonna get weird. They proceeded to light us up on the PIC out of radical islamists to our Syria AFF (which we were warned about pre round, but I blew off caring about that). Thanks Luke Hill for bailing us out though!
Matt Gomez/Jeffrey Horn---UNLV GH: 3rd bid and NDT quarters on healthcare. More appearances later in the post for these two.
Nick Nave/Devane Murphy---Rutgers MN: CEDA + NDT champions, ever heard of them?
Elijah Smith/Ryan Wash---Emporia SW: Same thing, but they also did it first so there. 3 tournaments, 2 wins + a finals. Mind boggling.
Leah Moczulski/Paul Kanellopoulos---Gonzaga KM: Nicest team of the decade? Yes. Best 4th team of the decade? I am not going to look at it and just say yes. Dartmouth RR on democracy. Took a handful of L’s to NU BK. Broke an Aff that involves a RHINOS impact and won with Dheidt judging. Fucking nice.
Also was my last debate ever! The panel: Sarah Lundeen, Sherry Hall, Stephanie Spies, Fitzmier, Adrienne, Hardy, Judd Kimball. We are Aff. We are happy to be there and out of gas. We try to turn their Chinese politics DA, but the 2AC was bad. We get Hardy’s ballot on Leah didn’t kick the CP, stuck with it, it links to the DA. Took no seconds of the 2AR. We proceed to lose 5 of the other 6 (thanks Judd!)
Here is the real question though, what team is more of a mouthful: Leah Moczulski/Paul Kanellopoulos or Viveth Karthikeyan/Alex Gazmararian? We only ask the super serious and important questions on this blog.
James Allan/Jefferey Yan---Binghamton AY: NDT Octafinalist and first round bid team from Binghamton! What comes to mind when I think of this team is they are the kind of K team that is decreasing in popularity which is a pity. Teams like this are really fun. When I debated Binghamton back in the day I lost on wipeout (like aliens, universe shattering weapons, the whole nine yards). Glad to see the squad has diversified the arsenal.
Derek Hilligoss/Jasmine Stidham---UCO HS: NDT octafinalists and first round bid team. Best set col team of the decade?? Not really sure how to prove that. Most D3ish D3 team of the decade?? I don’t feel I have the localized knowledge to say for sure. Fuck, I have bitten off a lot more than I can chew with these questions. They are good, they are nice, they are the best team in program history, Derek likes the Thunder (the poor bastard) and Jasmine doesn’t know what sports are so that leads to funny things online. Good shit.
NOTE--- To be considered in one of the following categories, one of the main things that comes to mind when thinking about that debater has to be the category in question. When listing folks in these categories I am doing it in no particular order.
Best AFF Writers
Remember when thinking about subcategories I was thinking about folks whose main quality to me represents the category. So there are a lot of great 2A’s out there, but they don’t stand out in mind as “you have to break a new Aff against aliens to save planet earth, what debater is tasked to write said Aff?”
Carly W---nukes NDT finals was a work of art.
Arjun---NDT semi’s on energy and NDT finals on legalization. Two of the best crafted Affs of all time!
Ezra---respect to the king of the new Aff
Truf---no one said this was an impartial blog. Over the last two year both prolific and highest quality stuff imo.
Suo---K Aff’s before and after have paled in comparison to masterpieces BoSu threw out there.
Best in the Clash
To me this means who is best at going for or defeating framework. Obviously lots of people have a lot of clash debates, but that doesn’t mean they get to be in this category if they are infamous for a few other things.
BoSu---a lot of folks read different K aff’s that lead to the same approach against framework in the later speeches. I thought BoSu read a handful of different affs that tackled framework in unique ways. They did it at a level of sophistication not yet matched since they graduated imo.
Donnie Grasse---I am bias, but I think this one is objectively right. Best topic education style arguments in the game + great record + he had a unique way of phrasing and impacting things that hasn’t really been duplicated. Not your grandma’s truth testing framework debater.
Corrine Sugino---I thought Wake AS was the hardest to framework against particularly on climate.
Hemanth---no cards, no extraneous parts. Great at making complex things intelligible. Great on his feet. Great in CX. A true master.
Alex Miles---I am very biased in favor of debaters in this category from war powers onward. I think framework debates changed around then and K teams grew in number and quality (particularly on war powers and legalization there are a zillion of them that are very good). And I think Miles was best of the best during that time.
I am only thinking about people I watched who maintained a very high level of clarity and were so fast that I could not keep up. Three people in my time meet that standard:
THAT’S IT. Sorry everybody else who is a notch slower or a terrible mumbler.
Least Predictable 2N
I considered folks who really embody the notion of “if you put it in your 1NC you are willing to go for it.” Sorry people who went for politics all the time, I imagined another category for you. The more I thought about this, the less people cleared the bar for me. Old wiki dying/being too hard to look at didn’t help jog my memory.
For instance, I think Northwestern has reasonable notoriety for going for stuff that is not politics. But when I think back on their debaters from the decade I remember Layne going for orientalism all the time and I remember Miles going for drones good all the time (and the treaty cp/da on legalization).
Other people I thought had reasonable range I remember going for politics a whole hell of a lot still (Markoff and Ellis). I get it, sometimes it is the best thing, it is a NB to CP’s and hard to find other stuff that links on the fly. Pairs good with case D and some turns which is a favorite subject for most 2N’s. But ya boring 2N’s.
So I may need some help from the community on this one. I think three people stand out to me personally off the top of my head.
Andrew Baker---I debated him a lot on immigration and saw him debate a lot on nukes and ag and he just really didn’t give a fuck about what he went for. Like 2NR’s on ASPEC didn’t give a fuck. Going for Irigary because the 2AC said 3 things. I remember having a debate against UTD BR where my 2AC goal was to beat midterms and whatever CP it was a NB to, but there were 4 or 5 other things in the 1NC. Baker takes like 8 mins of 2NC prep and the block is everything else that was in the 1NC (like some real stinkers got extended) and UTD beat us. Most people don’t know who this guy is, but he was really good.
Donnie---I am only saying him mainly because of his propensity to extend 2 or 3 things in the 2NR. You can’t be boring when you never kick shit in the 2NR.
Peyton Lee---I think she was the most flexible NU 2N. I remember the helium DA, China competitiveness DA, Greenwashing DA and Coal DA in pretty big top 5 debates. Went for T in a few spots. Might have gone for politics a lot too, but whatever. Think I recall a Heidegger and rights malthus 2NR in there too. RANGE.
Two other people: Will Morgan and Bolman. The average number of positions a K team goes for in a year is what? Somewhere between 1 and 2 on average? Granted I am thinking mostly against Affs with plans. I can see the range having to be wider by necessity when negating an aff without a plan. I think these two would top the wiki test for most positions listed on the neg, but could be wrong.
Most predictable 2N
Ah, the most predictable 2N. This category means two things to me. One, your 2NR’s have to be at least 95% the same thing. Two, you have to be successful to a certain extent while playing with what one would consider a handicap of being overwhelmingly not diverse in argument selection.
Jeffery Horn---2nd semester on healthcare was pretty creepy with how you knew what was coming and it didn’t really mater.
Advait Ramanan---I think he might have almost ruined it in the 2nd semester because he started going for Zivotofsky.
Hemanth---econ DA behemoth
Wimsatt---I am not going to look and would be interested to know, but I would be SHOCKED if you told me he went for a DA that wasn’t elections or politics.
Thur---true to his Wisconsin roots, a 2NR doesn’t have to be fancy to be good/effective.
Note---not really listing K teams in this one because my thinking here is these folks introduced other positions but regardless of how little you said on some of them would not go for them. Different dynamic then a one off K situation BUT does lead to the following category.
Best going for a K
One big factor in thinking about this was who would I rather overwhelmingly be Neg against rather than Aff. Another is who had good range. Another is who was very good at taking complex things and making it intelligible (particularly for a doofus like me).
RJ Giglio---fluid across multiple kinds of positions. Texas on democracy…round 7 or 8. An ass beating on Lacan I will never forget.
Edmund Zagorin---NDT quarters on immigration. Go watch it:
Layne Kirshon---democracy topic. Orientalism K. 5 majors won. Best Copeland of the decade. Unstoppable force.
Markoff---complexity K in finals of the NDT??? It mainly means he has no fear, but doesn’t mean he is the best at going for a K. Sorry.
Q---more on her later.
Jasmine---overwhelmingly true I would prefer being Neg on climate and healthcare vs UCO HS and Jasmine going for a K was the reason.
Marquis---the only thing that was going to save you was him being top heavy! The six minute overview was probably the most intricate explanation of Afro-pessimism I have come across.
Spurlock---so slow but so effective. A lot of moving parts. Lot of engagement with the aff in specific terms. Very difficult to effectively come up with a 2AC blueprint against.
Let’s move on to my top 10 debaters of the decade
10. Nick Nave---Rutgers
Historic NDT champion. Debated at KCKCC and Rutgers and reached the pinnacles of success from the small school starting point. I am not the person to best articulate their story in debate but can pay my respects by recognizing the great and historic accomplishment that didn’t occur in any other decade. Their work with the WDI has demonstrated they are a true community builder.
9. Hemanth Sanjeev---Harvard
NDT winner. 2x Copeland winner. Great in the clash. Wildly efficient. Nice and laid back. Best in CX of the decade. It is difficult to find someone who can translate such smart shit into such a digestible package.
8. Rashid Campbell---Oklahoma
Historic NDT top speaker. An NDT where they were 8-0 with 23 ballots. There are a lot of debaters with absurd stats and it would be very difficult to parse them. But there was never a debater like Rashid, and I don’t think there has been one like him since. Presented sophisticated positions in a singular style about subjects like code-switching that the debate community hasn’t fully wrapped its head around.
7. Natalie Knez---Georgetown
Most underrated 2N of the decade. NDT top speaker and 2x NDT finals. Some of the greatest speeches of all time in the finals of the NDT on climate and healthcare. The run to the finals on healthcare is an all-time accomplishment. Popping two new affs in elims that year, beautiful. Going from almost quitting to NDT finals with a frosh. I can’t think of many other people who could pull off such a thing. Great strategist, seemed to be willing to entertain a lot of ways to get the job done (before she dismissed most of them as stupid).
6. Andrew Arsht---Georgetown
The real question is would the greatest debater of the decade lose to me when they were a frosh and I was a junior. Assuredly not! I guess you can say he figured some things out past that point. I really wasn’t trying to honor the same thing multiple times on this list, but Georgetown AM is just too good to deny.
5. Andrew Markoff---Georgetown
But the classic question is do you prefer Arsht or Markoff? MARKOFF. All day every day. 2AR’s are all well and good and some might say Arsht is on the short list of greatest at giving that speech. But 2NR and 1AR’s are what gets the heart beating. Thinking about how you are going to read all the cards Markoff is getting through in the post round. How is he saying so much? He won the debate 3 arguments ago. Fuck, he has two minutes on the clock still. What is happening?
10 elims during the NDT’s they won. 7 Negs and 3 Affs. Just sayin.
4. Elijah Smith—Emporia and Rutgers
Historic NDT win (first of several this decade). First to unite CEDA and NDT crowns. Changed the trajectory of debate. Most of this equally true of Ryan as well, but I am trying to be spot efficient! And Elijah came back and was the 5th bid and NDT quarterfinalist so that broke the tie for me. Doing the in’s during that energy NDT was wild to watch. Pretty good for a high school LD’er!
3. Stephen Weil---Emory
One of the first great debaters to personally stomp you really sticks with you. The stats don’t hurt. 167-24 on immigration and nukes. So clear. So fast. One of those debaters where getting to a 100 neg cards read was a realistic possibility (Civ Good against WGA BS on the ag NDT? Going for prolif good? Going for the deterrence DA?) Won the NDT quarters on immigration on the buddhism K! Quarters on the nukes NDT, Aff vs. MSU LW. 1AR is great fucking speech about CP theory. I watched it 100 times that summer and that is all I knew about theory for the next two years! (which really explains a lot honestly). Can you name another person that you can have a conversation about being the best debater, judge and coach in a given decade? No, you cannot.
2. Arjun Vellayappan
I really tried not to be too stat centric when creating this list but at some point, someone is going to come along and amass such a resume it is hard to deny. That is the case with Arjun.
I believe he won 12 majors including the Shirley all four years (the first time was a closeout we are counting). NDT finals, Copeland, Copeland, NDT win (with two other NDT quarterfinal appearances to boot).
Back of the hand calculation says he won 316 debates and lost 53. He won 86% of the debates he participated in.
I would draft him first if I was building a debate team because I would know the Aff ship would be well taken care of and he seems like a great team player despite being sooo much better than everyone else. Just a class act that beat the shit out of everyone for four solid years without really relenting at any point.
1. Quaram Robinson
So, let’s start by saying that Kansas BR making the finals of the NDT on military maybe the most impressive accomplishment in the entire decade. The number of teams outside the top 16 that made an NDT finals before that point is: zero (I am pretty sure, I looked through 2005 and assumed it was a law of nature).
People who want to say Emporia winning the NDT was more impressive would be justified. But hey Emporia was a first round and won CEDA going into that NDT. Lots of different number bids have made the finals and won the NDT. The 17th ranked team has NEVER made the finals and it was a frosh and soph! Incredible. Lots of teams similar to Emporia have won the NDT since but will there ever be a run like Kansas BR?? I am not so sure.
The follow up act was a Copeland and NDT victory, one of the best team performances of the decade. Their average final place that year was 1.8. NU BK (best Copeland of the decade imo) was 3.57! (because they lost in the doubles once)
Four different partners. Great 1AC’s, specific neg evidence, a person I would always want to be Neg against because of how effective of a 2N they were. A class act and a historically great all-time debater.
A lot of history was made this decade. I hope this post will lead others to share stories about debaters that stood out to them. Regional debate hero, small school warrior, a certain kind of specialist, that great debater that beat you down when you were young, that favorite debater you got the chance to judge. There are a lot of great debaters with a lot of great stats that got snubbed off my list. There are no objectively right answers or approaches here. Nothing but respect for the debaters of the 2010’s
Every decade the debate community takes some time to reflect on what has transpired. Charles Olney is organizing the project for the 2010’s. He put it this way: “One of the most interesting parts of the project has always been the coaches poll, which invites coaches to reflect back on the decade. Who were the best individual debaters? The best teams? The best judges? Which topics were good and which were bad? Which hosts did the best? These questions invites rankings, but more importantly they give us all a chance to reflect on what makes the activity great.”
A few big picture notes at the top. First, there are so many great teams over the last decade. Looking back has been truly mind boggling. Second, nothing but fun is intended by talking about this publicly. I view this post as an extension of debate’s rich oral war story history which makes it so unique. Third, I debated three of these topics and it was trolly to realize that we would have to extend the list to top 300ish of the decade before Liberty GW got in the conversation. W00f. Fourth, there are a million right answers. I am happy to share what I thought and excited to hear where people differ.
The categories are:
Top 10 teams of the decade
Top 10 debaters of the decade
Top 5 coaches of the decade
Top 5 judges of the decade
All the topics ranked in order
NDT hosts ranked in order
Best regular season tournament host
We are talking about the top 10 teams of the decade today. Note--when I give out honorable mentions I am thinking of teams on the bubble/the top 15.
The first questions I asked were easy to figure out: what is the set of NDT winners, and what is the set of Copeland winners?
NDT winners in chronological order:
Copeland winners in chronological order:
That leads to following overlap, NDT + Copeland winners:
Gtown AM (not in the same year though)
There is one other group to keep an eye on and that is NDT runners up:
The number of teams that won an NDT, won a Copeland or both is 12. So already somebody really really good is going to get snubbed. Then we have a team like Michigan AP who has the unique stat of two NDT finals appearances. And this is just at a glance.
The next question I asked was what metrics would be relevant to look at? I wanted to go one step beyond NDT finish and bid ranking, but didn't want to get into the tall weeds unless a uniquely useful tiebreaker emerged. Hopefully things would shake out without getting too granular.
The thing is, with teams this good, things will not swing on one team being in GSU quarters and the other being in the semis (or at least I hope not because that would be annoying to parse). So here are the metrics I looked at:
What were your NDT performances?
How many majors did you win?
How many majors did you lose in the finals?
What did you do at RR’s?
What first round bid were you?
The next thing I did was to think about things in eras. Let's get into the nitty-gritty and jog your memory of how many incredible teams there have been this decade.
Nukes and Immigration Topic
Looking back on these topics are funny because I debated on them. At the time I thought all these teams were so impossibly good. I couldn't fathom how a team could have so many cards, know what they say, be so fast and be so unbeatable. If I were given a 100 chances at any of these teams I am sure I would lose 100 times.
At a glance:
NDT Winners: MSU LW then NU FS.
NDT Finalists NU FS then Emory IW
Copeland winner: Emory IW then Emory IW
That creates a nice little short list of the era, any other worthy of consideration? 7 majors on nukes. 4 different winners (UTD BR, Emory IW, MSU LW and NU FS).
Shoutout UTD BR: They beat Emory IW twice at GSU that year to take the title.
Emory IW debated 104 times that year. They went 93 and 11. They lost to 5 different teams that year. NU FS, MSU LW, Whitman CS, Wake CS and UTD BR. MSU LW is the only team to have a winning record against them (4-3). NU FS went 3-4. This might come up later. Was Emory IW the hardest team to get a win against? We shall see!
What about on immigration? 7 majors. 6 different winners! Cal BP, Emory IW, NU FS, Kansas KQ, Harvard JP, Emory IW, and OU GW. Wow!
Weird thing: Cal BP didn't apply for a first round on nukes to come back on immigration. So they don't have a bid ranking for nukes.
Harvard JP---4th bid on nukes, 2nd bid on immigration. Kentucky RR win. Won USC. Finals of GSU, Kentucky and Fullerton. NDT quarters on immigration. Pretty good, but not top 10! So here is their honorable mention.
So across those two years, here are the stats for noteworthy teams (note on RR's, it goes in chronological order so KY RR on nukes, Dartmouth nukes etc):
Before looking at things I had a huge soft spot for Emory IW. Definitely some bias from being so bad on nukes and thinking they were so ridiculously good on that topic. But NU FS! That win and that finals at the NDT are huge.
1. NU FS
2. Emory IW
3. MSU LW
Democracy, Energy, War Powers and Legalization
My senior year! My first two years coaching! My first year at UK! Memories!
At a glance:
NDT Winners: Gtown AM then Emporia SW then Gtown AM then NU MV
NDT Finalists: NU BK then NU LV then Michigan AP then Michigan AP
Copeland winner: NU BK then Gtown AM then NU MV then NU MV
Huh, I wonder how that NDT win, Copeland, NDT win is going to stack up across the decade. Seems ok I guess.
Teams that won majors on these topics: Gtown AM, NU BK, Loyola EM, Harvard DT, Harvard BS, NU MV, Michigan AP, MSU ST.
Sidebar: do Harvard BS, Harvard DT, Loyola EM or MSU ST deserve an honorable mention?
Harvard BS does---3 majors won, 2 finals, 8 semifinals, 3 second places at RR's, two NDT semifinals. 3rd, 2nd and 3rd bid. Much better than first honorable mention Harvard JP. Contender for #11 all decade.
MSU ST is close to honorable mention but not quite there. Won Texas on legalization. 1 finals, 2 semifinals. 3rd and 1st at UK RR. Quarters and Semi's of the NDT. Two strong NDT's, but not quite enough regular season numbers I think. Top 25 easy trending to top 20.
Loyola on democracy had a very good year. They were the 3rd bid that year. Here are all the 3rd bids of the decade:
Welp, MSU LW, NU FS, Gtown AM are in the GOAT conversation. Harvard BS > Loyola. Is Loyola the LEAST GOOD 3rd bid team of the decade??
No, that appears to be a scrum between Emory, Georgia and UNLV. Emory and Georgia won the Dartmouth RR but not a regular season major. UNLV won a major. Median finish goes UGA, Emory then UNLV. Emory made it to the octa's of the NDT on military, UNLV quarters, UGA quarters. Hard to say!
Long way of saying Loyola doesn't get an honorable mention but is very good.
Holy shit that was a lot of stuff apart from the original question.
So Gtown AM, NU MV, NU BK, NU LV, Emporia SW, Michigan AP. Gtown AM and NU MV are a cut above and this is how the GOAT list looks with their stats considered:
Our working GOAT list:
1. Gtown AM
2. NU MV
3. NU FS
4. Emory IW
With: MSU LW, NU BK, NU LV, Emporia SW and Michigan AP lurking. We will return to them later. We have to see if the last 4 topics of the decade leads to anyone leap frogging them clearly.
Military Presence/Climate/Healthcare/Executive Power
A lot of the teams in the first two chunks of topics had multiple years together. This breaks down across these four topics. The best debaters did a lot of work across multiple partnerships, but the question is best debate team. Take a look at things at a glance:
NDT Winners: Harvard HS then Rutgers MN then Kansas KR then Kentucky BT
NDT Finalists: Kansas BR then Gtown KL then Gtown BK then Georgia RS
Copeland Winners: Harvard HS then Harvard MS then Kansas KR then Kentucky BT
3 NDT + Copeland winners in 4 years! Wow! This is where thing get interesting because things get murky. It gets to a question of how you rank these accomplishments. Here is how I did it:
Winning the NDT is huge. It's the hardest tournament by orders of magnitude. A lot of debate folks are also sports nerds. And sports nerds will tell you to avoid things like counting stats and compensate for variance by looking at bigger samples. Another common sports nerd thing is to think about if you did something a 100 or 1000 times who would come out on top the most. So there is some appeal to thinking a Copeland represents a lot because it factors in a lot of tournaments.
I just can't bring myself to ranking a Copeland winner over an NDT winner straight up. The body of work over more than one season would have to indicate something impressive. If a team didn't win the NDT but made the finals that is a big deal.
That premable is necessary because here is what we got for 5 through 10
NDT + Copeland winners: Harvard HS, Kansas KR and Kentucky BT
Copeland winners + NDT finalist: NU BK
NDT winners: Emporia SW, Rutgers MN and MSU LW
Interesting leftovers: Michigan AP, two time NDT finalist (I have no idea what to do with this stat)
That leads to honorable mention #3: NU LV. Closed out Shirley + NDT Quarters on Democracy. On energy they won 3 majors and were in the finals of the NDT. I was able to judge this team a lot and am very thankful. If all these teams debated in an elim bracket I would put long shot money on LV to win. They punched above their weight always and duked it out with GOAT of the decade Gtown AM for a whole year. The semis of the NDT that year was a work of art.
So at this fork in the road I am resolving to put the NDT + Copeland winners 5th, 6th and 7th. But what's the order?
Welp, that didn't clear things up that much. What about the average finish of each of these teams?
oooo, interesting. The plot thickens.
What about those RR finishes though? They are tough to judge. On the one hand you got this digestible result and you know they had to beat some good teams to get it. On the other hand there are two points. One is that it feels weird to me to put particular stock in RR's and not just look at a team's record against all the bid teams or all the top 10 bid teams etc. RR's are just snapshots of what feels like a larger head to head picture.
The other issue is that K teams are historically underdogs at RR's due to judging. I can see a comment like that splitting the room down the middle, but it is where I land having looked at ten years of RR results. Other things have a way of working themselves out so the number of K/policy teams in elims or the first round voting and what not is close to 50-50. But that isn't how RR's have worked. So I am not going to look at a team like Kansas KR and say oh you are worse because of the way you performed at RR's. NOPE.
Let's look at one more stat, an incredibly self serving one.
1. Gtown AM
2. NU MV
3. NU FS
4. Emory IW
5. Kansas KR
6. Kentucky BT
7. Harvard HS
Emory IW's two years of two Copelands, NDT quarters and NDT finals along side 4 major wins and 4 finals. If any of the 5 through 7 teams had another year to look at together I could see shuffling the order.
So we have 3 spots left and the following teams floating about: MSU LW, NU BK, Emporia SW, Michigan AP, Rutgers MN.
Is there a weak link in this chain? Well:
MSU LW---won an NDT that involved NU FS and Emory IW. They beat NU in the finals and Emory twice. WOAH. So MSU is not getting bumped from my list.
Emporia SW---they did 4 things as a partnership. They went 2-4 at the Pitt RR (wtf). They were in the finals of Northwestern. They won CEDA. They won the NDT. That is a fucking peak performance right there.
Rutgers MN---Won the NDT. Won CEDA. Won USC. Lost Texas finals.
NU BK---NDT finals + NDT semifinals. Copeland winner. But not just any Copeland winner. Maybe the best Copeland resume of the decade.
Michigan AP---NDT finals twice. Won one major. Finals of two others. Casual 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st RR finishes during war powers and legalization.
We have arrived at honorable mention #4---Michigan AP.
So we need to cut one between Emporia, Rutgers and NU BK. The only thing that is giving me pause is NU BK was one ballot away from an NDT win and they had a strong two years, but Emporia and Rutgers have better peaks. Pretty difficult.
My final list:
1. Gtown AM
2. NU MV
3. NU FS
4. Emory IW
5. Kansas KR
6. Kentucky BT
7. Harvard HS
8. MSU LW
9. Emporia SW
10. NU BK
11. Rutgers MN
12. Michigan AP
13. NU LV
14. Harvard BS
15. Harvard JP
EDITOR's NOTE----the first version of this post snubbed the hell out of Harvard MS. Oops. I would put Harvard MS 14, BoSu 15 and bump Harvard JP.
CORRECTION---NU BK won GSU on democracy, not Gtown AM. Those stat images have been changed to reflect this.
I could go back and forth on the NU vs Rutgers thing for a while. End of the day, NDT semi's, Copeland, NDT finals > NDT win, 7th bid, CEDA win where only two other first rounds were defeated on the way to the crown.
That's how I see it. Feel free to let me know how you see it. What a wild question to ask. More parts later with the other categories.
The following was written by Mikaela Malsin, topic committee member:
As a Topic Committee member, I wanted to discuss what I understand to be some concerns and frustrations raised over the topic process and over this year's slate of resolutions. I strongly prefer not to use Facebook (deactivated my account in 2014, created a new one in order to run various Georgetown pages, but oppose it as a social/dialogic platform and am trying to stay off). For the record, I am speaking only own my own behalf.
1. The Topic Process. I think it is fundamentally flawed from start to finish. This is my second year on the committee, and it's been really enlightening; in prior years I would often grumble along the lines of "omg, why does the committee ruin the topic" (sincerest apologies to all prior topic committees from years I said or thought that), and now I think I have at least some insight into the problems. I don't yet have solutions, but I know there's a lot of interest in generating them and I hope to see/help produce reform proposals soon.
Problem: Most of the topic process, including the role/function of the committee, is poorly defined. I’ll include the full text of the “Topic Selection” section of the CEDA Constitution at the end of this post. If you want to contribute to the topic process (anything from writing a paper to serving on the committee) there’s not much guidance on how to do that, and definitely no guidance regarding what is expected of you or how you should go about making decisions.
One example of the problems created by limited guidance: The topic paper process lacks clear guidelines and certainly lacks consensus re: what a topic paper should look like, what should appear on the ballot, and whether the committee should or should not play a 'gatekeeping' role in that. There were 10 controversy papers on the ballot this year. Reading all 10 and making informed decisions about them is incredibly time/energy intensive, and that's just the work to be done to rank your personal preferences. Is that really a burden we want on everyone? Or are we okay if people vote without reading all the papers closely?
Problem: Resolutions created by committee, completed in a compressed timeframe, based on the work of others. I really think this is the largest issue, though also an incredibly difficult one to reform. I worked on last year's topic paper, attended the topic committee meeting as a voting member, and was still unhappy with the resolutions we produced.
We take the collective work of one group of people, in the form of a paper written to persuade the community with a necessarily limited set of evidence to support it, and try to turn that into an unspecified (minimum of 3, but what is a 'good' number? Would 3 be enough? How many is too many?) number of resolutions to present to the community to vote on. It is a messy and unwieldy process.
We want the community to get resolutions that reflect the controversy area that was selected by community ranked vote. That requires repurposing/expanding upon the work from the paper, and it also requires either mind-reading or ongoing, binding consultation with constituents from the community — which may be desired, but currently lacks a good mechanism/process and also becomes incredibly difficult once the topic meeting starts (more on this further down). As an example from a previous year, the Healthcare Coverage topic paper recommended "expand benefits" and "access" as key terms for inclusion in the resolution. These were the two [u]primary[/u] recommendations for resolutional wording; neither of those terms appeared on more than one resolution on the ballot as a result of the research done at the meeting. If people "thought they were voting for" a topic focused on healthcare benefits and access, they would be disappointed, but the truth is that it's not possible to know exactly what the community (as represented by their school's vote) "wants" in voting for a particular paper.
We also want every term that appears in the resolutions to be well-vetted and to produce a year's worth of good debates. We divide up research assignments and then try to make assessments based on what we and others have done. It's hard to make good decisions that way. We focus on a few small pieces at a time and then try to put those pieces together. People get invested in their individual projects/assignments, because they've put in work on them. People get distracted by a work e-mail, miss a few minutes of discussion, and get lost. People try to convey concerns or opinions from constituents and are imperfect messengers, or haven't been given evidence to support the arguments being passed along.
This work is primarily done in 3 days. There's a general expectation that the resolutions will be complete by the end of the weekend of the TC meeting. That's not actually a CEDA requirement, but it does make sense in that people go home, summer institutes/classes begin, etc., and committee membership is an unpaid position — the understanding is that the topic committee's work should be complete by the end of those three grueling days. So people put in some preliminary research, but the *vast majority* of the work is done during the weekend of the meeting.
This means two primary things: 1) It's not reflective of the best work that could be done, since it's such a compressed timeframe. Adrienne Brovero consistently points out that we should be putting in more effort between controversy vote and meeting time, and she's absolutely right, because three days is just not much time. 2) Input and thus influence comes from people who can and do follow along, make contributions and put in work. That is quite a bit of effort, and most people don't — even if they wanted to, the livestream might or might not be working, it's hard to follow the flow of the conversation, etc. To attend the meeting in person is expensive and exhausting. All of this happens against the backdrop of the end of the academic year, national high-school championship tournaments, the one chance most debate people have to travel or take any kind of break or visit family, etc.
Also, by the time we vote on the slate of resolutions, we are exhausted and ready to snap. Feedback on those resolutions is limited to those paying attention/following along and motivated to get in their input before Sunday afternoon.
So most people discover the 'results' of the meeting at the very end and are perplexed (again, I was always one of these people too). I think a better version of this work would involve more thorough group research/vetting at every step with community input, but it would honestly take a month.
Problem: Lack of representation. I think this is also directly related to the above. The ways in which community members communicate with TC members is scattered and ad-hoc. There’s no particular process or mechanism for soliciting feedback. There’s no real clarity on what it means to be a community representative, or how best to represent one’s constituency (and for everyone besides the grad and undergrad reps, the nature of that constituency is frankly also ambiguous). Also, most of that input/feedback comes as the meeting is ongoing, which compounds every issue with the meeting itself. If you are hearing from people and trying to communicate particular concerns, it trades off with focus on the discussion at hand; if you're dedicated to contributing to the discussion and work at hand, it's hard to be a good "representative."
If there is something people feel strongly should be included in a resolution (or all resolutions), the way to do it is to present research to the committee and make a case for it. However, it’s not necessarily clear from the outside or before the fact what issues the committee will be considering, even to the committee itself. Also, if people don’t want something included (e.g. National Space Policy) that is a harder case to make, simply by virtue of the difficulty of proving “inclusion will be bad for debate.” As always, it is harder to go neg.
2. This year's topic process/resolutions. I've heard a few particular concerns and will try to address them briefly.
A. Fidelity to the topic paper. As discussed above, I think there are fundamental problems with the process that make fidelity to the topic paper a difficult principle both to operationalize and to do perfectly. I think the resolutions produced are mostly reflective of the topic paper. They are not identical to the 5 resolutions suggested, but that's why there is a three-day meeting scheduled every year in the first place. If people would rather vote for precise/particular resolutions along with the controversy area, that is a reform that could be proposed. I'll also address what I understand to be the most controversial divergences ('national space policy,' India) below.
B. Critical teams see the resolutions as unacceptable. This one surprises me because I thought the topic area itself would tend to require, at a minimum, the kind of interaction with foreign nations that necessitates governmental action (the topic paper itself discusses the mechanism in exactly those terms). I am unclear on what might satisfy these concerns, and would have welcomed input along those lines, particularly going into the meeting.
C. 'National space policy'. This was actually some of the earliest and most comprehensive research done post-topic paper — shoutout to Patrick Waldinger working much harder than the rest of us. As a group we researched iterations of "international space cooperation" as a primary mechanism, and generally agreed that it does not meet most standards as a limiting phrase, particularly if you don't want the aff to use, e.g., private companies only (and privatization is listed as primary neg ground in the topic paper). There was disagreement and debate over 'national space policy' vs. 'space policy,' and 'national space policy' was believed to be more specific in ways that would be useful for neg ground.
D. India. I'll take the heat for this one, and I'll die on this hill. The topic paper lists India in all the suggested resolutions, but only has specific sections on China and Russia. On Day One, people researched various countries. The research produced on India demonstrated a fairly extensive degree of cooperation currently occurring between the U.S. and India, which obviously complicates neg ground. The neg cards produced did not promise much. From talking to people who work on space policy in D.C., my understanding is that *the* controversy around international cooperation in space revolves around China and Russia. This makes some sense given the very different nature of the relationship. My reasons for opposing India's inclusion in the resolution are very similar to the reasons most people didn't think we should include, e.g., Japan or the EU. If India was flagged as being the reason people voted for the paper, or if there was evidence presented (at any point in the process, by anyone) to demonstrate a viable controversy area with *unique* neg ground, I would have felt differently.
TL;DR I think if you are dissatisfied with this year's resolutions, you probably have an issue with the larger topic process, and so do I. I'm interested in identifying the best ways to fix it.
IV. TOPIC SELECTION
Section 1: The CEDA Topic Selection Committee will be responsible for choosing problem areas and writing debate topics. The CEDA Topic Selection Committee will consist of nine members: Two of the following (President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President) three at- large members, one undergraduate student representative, one graduate student representative, one representative appointed by the National Debate Tournament, and one representative appointed by the American Debate Association. Open nominations for the at-large members will be solicited at the Fall business meeting. The term of office of the three at-large representatives will be three years, and to provide for overlap one will be elected each year.
Section 2: By May 1 the committee will report to the Executive Secretary no fewer than three problem areas to be voted upon by the general membership. In early July the committee will report to the Executive Secretary no fewer than three resolutions corresponding to the winning topic area.
Section 3: The Executive Secretary will distribute a formal topic selection ballot to all CEDA members in early July. The designated deadline must be no more than five days before the topic announcement date.
Section 4: Topics will be selected through a proportional voting system. Voters will be required to rank as many choices as they wish, consecutively, with one being the first rank. All first place votes will be counted. If one choice receives a majority, it wins. If not, the choice with the LEAST first place votes will be thrown out, and ballots that had the discarded choice as first will be counted using their second place votes. This process will be repeated until one choice attains a majority. If two or more of the choices to be eliminated have equal numbers of first place votes, they will be eliminated together, with second place votes for both added to the respective first place totals on the same round. If a choice is eliminated and its second choice is already eliminated, that ballot's third choice will count as a first choice, and so forth. In the event of a tie, the resolution with the highest number of initial first-place votes will win. If still tied, the resolution with the highest number of second-place votes will win, and so forth.
Section 5: The CEDA topic will be announced on the third Friday in July. When announcing election results, the Executive Secretary shall report the total number of ballots received and the vote totals for each topic wording.
Section 6: The chair of the Topic Selection Committee may be a committee member selected by a majority vote of the committee. The committee may also elect a non-voting chair from outside their membership.
Section 7: The Executive Secretary shall, upon receipt of a problem area ballot or a topic- wording ballot, provide acknowledgement of its receipt via email to the sender. The notification shall not disclose the particular vote, but is merely intended to inform the sender their ballot has been received and will be tabulated. The Executive Secretary shall inform any member of problems with their ballot at this time (e.g. improperly completed ballot). When announcing results, the Executive Secretary shall report the total number of ballots received and the break down of votes for each problem area.
Section 8: Within each four-year cycle the national topic should reflect a rotation of at least one 21 of each of the following topic categories.
I am Lincoln, head coach at UK and coach with Montgomery Bell Academy. This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.